A little over a year after emerging from stealth, augmented reality gaming startup Illumix has launched its first title using a familiar formula, but with a new twist.
On Monday, the company, working in partnership with Scott Games, launched Five Nights at Freddy's AR Special Delivery, a Pokémon GO-style location-based AR take on the popular mobile gaming horror franchise.
After launching as an early access title on November 22, the game is now generally available on the App Store and on Google Play for devices compatible with ARKit and ARCore. The game is free, with in-app purchases starting at $2.99 and topping out at $99.99.
For those who are unfamiliar with Five Nights at Freddy's, the original game, according to my teenage son (a one-time fan of the franchise), casts players as overnight employees of Freddy Fazbear's Pizza who have to survive their shifts by avoiding animatronic robots who attack at night. The franchise has spawned several sequels since, but the original game still ranks within the top 25 overall on the App Store and within the top 15 of games.
In the AR edition, Freddy invades the homes of players under the premise of a home delivery service that provides animatronic companions that conveniently malfunction upon arrival.
Like Pokémon GO, the game overlays a map of the player's surroundings with a virtual layer, which enables players to track inbound robots. Tapping on robots once they are within range initiates the game's equivalent of catching Pokémon.
The character encounters are where the game adds a slightly different game mechanic that emulates the paranoia of the original Freddy's game. In Special Delivery, players use the smartphone's camera view, darkened at the edges for effect, to find robots, who are "cloaked" by some self-defense technology gone haywire. Players can activate a flashlight to illuminate their view and help find the intruder, with haptic feedback and spatial audio also adding to the creepy atmosphere. Players then must activate a shock defense before the robot attacks with a jump scare.
If successful, players add the robot to their collection. Robot allies can then be sent into the real world to "salvage" parts that are used to build mods for the character. Players can also make friends with other players and trade characters with each other.
Of all the location-based games out there, Special Delivery actually manages to outdo all of them in the AR encounter experience. In my brief hands-on with the game, I found that it used virtual imagery and effects to create a legitimately spooky experience.
While Five Nights at Freddy's doesn't capture the level of the zeitgeist that mobile gaming franchises like Angry Birds or Minecraft, it does have the kind of following that could give the augmented reality industry a mainstream hit.
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